In the Luxembourg Gardens

John Singer Sargent, American (active London, Florence, and Paris), 1856 - 1925

Geography:
Made in Paris, France, Europe

Date:
1879

Medium:
Oil on canvas

Dimensions:
25 7/8 x 36 3/8 inches (65.7 x 92.4 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting before 1900, Johnson Collection

Object Location:

* Gallery 155, European Art 1850-1900, first floor

Accession Number:
Cat. 1080

Credit Line:
John G. Johnson Collection, 1917

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Additional information:
  • PublicationMasterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Impressionism and Modern Art

    Like many of his contemporaries, the American John Singer Sargent lived in the Latin Quarter of Paris in the 1870s, near the École des Beaux-Arts and the Palais du Luxembourg, which had one of the largest parks on the Left Bank, newly laid out with formal gardens, fountains, and sculpture. In this twilight scene by Sargent, a vast expanse of gravel, tinted mauve by the setting sun, isolates a fashionably dressed couple walking arm in arm. Preoccupied by holding up her skirt and clutching her companion's arm, the woman seems distracted, while the man dispassionately smokes a cigarette. The detachment of the couple is echoed by other figures in the garden, all absorbed in their own activities: sitting on a bench, reading a newspaper, or playing with a toy sailboat. Sargent painted a second version of the composition (Minneapolis Institute of Arts), which he kept for himself; the dome of the Pantheon is visible on the horizon in that picture, as is geographically correct. Curiously, the Philadelphia picture, which Sargent sold to an American collector and exhibited in New York in 1879, omits the Pantheon, perhaps out of concern that it would overwhelm the foliage and dwarf the low-hanging harvest moon. Jennifer A. Thompson, from Masterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Impressionism and Modern Art (2007), p. 192.
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    Setting out to establish himself as a portrait painter with an international clientele, John Singer Sargent developed a style that was necessarily more conservative but more ostentatious technically than the avante-garde productions of his contemporaries, the Impressionists. In the Luxembourg Gardens, set in Paris's largest urban park, is one of the few landscapes from his early career. It shares the Impressionists' interest in the effects of light and color at a specific time of day and in everyday, middle-class subjects. Yet by scrubbing in the thin paint to create the opalescent areas of color for sky, gravel paving, and stone architecture at twilight and the dark, billowing forms of trees, Sargent created a study in tone and atmosphere more akin to the carefully adjusted harmonies of James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Each person, no matter how sketchy or distant, is characterized with a portraitist's eye for distinctive posture and attitude, and the touches of glowing color that define people and flowers are applied with a brio very different from an Impressionist's uninflected stroke. Darrel Sewell, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 289.

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